NYRA Starters, Jockeys to Meet Over Saratoga Gate Issues

Members of the New York Racing Association’s gate crew will meet Aug. 9 with jockeys at Saratoga Race Course to discuss issues caused by miscommunication before the start of several recent races at the New York oval, NYRA CEO Charlie Hayward said.

“We have the highest confidence in our starters, (and) we don’t want to leave any doubt about their abilities,” Hayward said. “We may have an issue or two, but I think we’re in much better shape at this point than we were last year.”

Six incidents at the gate have occurred in the past 13 racing days at Saratoga, with two refunds issued to the bettors.

A $459,000 refund was issued Aug. 1, when the Gary Contessa trainee Rumspringa acted up in the gate before the first race. The colt broke sideways and became tangled with the assistant starter, a 20-year veteran. Jockey Ramon Dominguez was unseated but not injured.

A second refund of $640,000 was issued Aug. 6, when jockey John Velazquez was unprepared for the start and fell off Anthony Dutrow trainee Phone Home as the gates opened for the fifth race.

Other recent incidents at Saratoga have included: After Dark flipped in the gate and was scratched July 25; My Sister Diane reared in the gate and was scratched by the attending veterinarian July 29; and Aug. 3 in the fifth, when Tobruk threw his head as the gate opened and was unprepared for the start, and the same day in the seventh, when Gaelic Storm stumbled two jumps out of the gate and lost jockey John Velazquez.

Velazquez, chairman of the Jockeys’ Guild, has escaped injury thus far at Saratoga in two gate incidents and a separate spill July 25.

“I think there’s just a lack of communication,” he said. “From the top to bottom, the horsemen, gate crew, and riders, everybody needs to communicate better. There’s no question that horses are coming from everywhere, and there are a lot of young horses and we all know that, so we need to be very clear about what’s going on in the gate.”


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